HRH Queen Elizabeth II

    Categories: articles buddhism

    Kaspa writes: In my role as Chairperson of the Network of Buddhist Organisations I was prompted to write to His Royal Highness King Charles III, following the death of his mother HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Here is the letter I have posted today. An earlier version of this appeared on the NBO’s website and social media pages.

    As Chairperson of the Network of Buddhist Organisations I am writing to pass on condolences from our trustees and the members of our executive committee. We are keeping in mind members of the Royal Family, who have lost a loved one, and people of the United Kingdom and across the world who are grieving alongside them

    Queen Elizabeth II was such a steady presence throughout our lives, a person of consistency in a changing and often chaotic world. I am sure people across the world will experience a whole range of feelings and reactions in the wake of this loss, and pray and hope that we can be kind to each other in the days ahead as we each process this news in our own way.

    We also send you our best wishes for your new responsibilities, and pray that you might carry them out with the welfare of the world and all living things in mind.

    Your Sincerely,

    Kaspa Thompson
    Chairperson 
    On Behalf of the Trustees
    Network of Buddhist Organisations

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    Quan Yin Dharma Glimpse

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Angela

    A wooden statue, of Quan Yin, a female Buddhist Saint, wearing flowing robes and holding an upturned vase on a small alter. The statue is about one and a half feet tall. There is a small red vase on the right, full of wildflowers, a candle stick with a lit cnadle on the left and two small offering bowls filled with water in front.
    The ancestor shrine, with Quan Yin, at Bright Earth

    I was dusting the Rupas in the shrine room this morning as part of my cleaning duties, cleaning the shrine room always feels like an honour and it is easier for me to do it mindfully and regard it as part of my practise than cleaning other things, although of course any cleaning or indeed any action, can be done this way.

    I came to Quan Yin, gently wiping her hands and face, and I put one hand on her shoulder to make sure I didn’t move her or knock her off-balance. As I did so, I felt that the experience was completely reciprocal; that she had a hand on my shoulder and was steadying me as the practise of cleaning her cleansed me and ‘blew a little of the dust from the mirror of my heart’ as they say in Bhakti Yoga.

    Namo Amida Butsu

    Making and Losing Friends

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Aidan

    Photo by Arthur Brognoli

    Last week, I unexpectedly reconnected with an old friend with whom I had once been very close but fell out with five long years ago.

    We had made apologies for what happened and spoken on and off since then, but my anxieties, my clinging to old memories and fears, held us back from really coming back into each other’s lives.

    Perhaps I was held back by my ego, by my desire, not for something, but to avoid something.

    To avoid confronting the past and risking embracing a renewed friendship that may end in the same way again.

    I had long thought that we had fallen out of each other’s lives for good.

    I’d accepted that.

    Despite the occasional text message, we fell out of touch yet again not too long ago and I felt that I had wasted my final chance at reconciliation.

    But a chance encounter on a train and a conversation with a mutual friend led us to spend real time together for the first time in half a decade.

    It was strange.

    Awkward to start with, but then special.

    Like reliving old times.

    It has left me thinking ever since about second chances and the all-too strange coincidences of life.

    At a time when I was thinking a lot about how I had messed up an opportunity to reconnect, accepting the consequences, everything just seemed to line up, well beyond either of our controls, to bring us together.

    I cannot explain how this happened or why, but I’ve accepted, after meditating on it, that I don’t need to.

    I must just be grateful that it happened at all.

    It has got me thinking, too, about that most important concept: impermanence.

    The impermanence of our original friendship.

    The impermanence of our distance.

    The impermanence of our lives and how much things have changed for the both of us in the years since.

    Perhaps the impermanence of our renewed relationship.

    I have spent so many years desiring to fix things between us, and yet desiring to avoid fresh hurt.

    Every step forward we have taken before has left me wanting to step back away again.

    But now that that desire is met, what now?

    I know that the answer must be to just enjoy it, to accept what we had, what we lost, and what we have again.

    Perhaps that is easier said than done.

    But I must now put my practice to work, to value what we’ve got now, and accept that things will come and go as life intended.

    I have considered that, maybe, the lesson I am meant to draw from this was that I was only able to reach my desire – to reconcile and reunite with my friend – only when I no longer desired it.

    It came to me naturally, when my desire was lost, replaced by grief, and then acceptance and when there was nothing left to fear and no more hope of seeking this.

    In acceptance of what I had, came what I had sought.

    And happiness came not through wanting this, but by it coming to me when the time was right for me to receive it, free of fear and prejudgements and preconceptions of what I wanted from it.

    After all, our reunion came about, not as a result of me seeking my desire, but through pure quirk of fate.

    I never believed that we would reconnect, but life made it happen.

    Perhaps we will be friends for many years once again, perhaps we will not.

    Life will decide and I must just play with whatever hand I am dealt and accept our friendship, however long or short it may be this time, for the unexpected gift that it is.

    Old photos

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    A Dharma Glimpse by Paul

    I recently paid my folks a visit and my mum proceeded to dig out the old photo albums. There I was, new born in a 70s living room, held by a proud father… an 80s kid clutching Star Wars toys… an early 90s 6th former…graduation cap n’gown… the millennium came  and parenthood not long after. And as mobile phones began to replace the Polaroid, the pictures dried up. Some of the photos were old – a black and white of the handsome Spanish grandad I never met, looking like a film star with cigarette. Even my grandma’s grandma from a bygone age.

    The faces looking out of each photo, full of life… I wonder if they knew how that moment in front of the camera would be short lived. That one day they would have to let go of everyone and everything they loved.

    I left with an emotional hangover. An underlying feeling of loss settled on me like a dark cloud. Later, a deep sense of gratitude for those memories lifted my spirits.
    Impermanence! That mark of existence, which the Buddha points us to, brings me the joy of seeing my daughters grow into young women and the heartfelt sadness of losing those I love. But then as one teacher said to me – when we come to realise the oneness of all things, what is there to lose?

    Namo Amitabha!

    Love & Grief of Stones

    A Dharma Glimpse by Fi

    The steps in Malvern where the vigil takes place

    As part of last year’s Bodhi Day I sat with fellow sangha members and Extinction Rebellion activists at a regular vigil for the Earth in the middle of my home town. Round our necks we wore the placards that said ‘in Love and Grief for the Earth.’

    At some point during the hour I sat there, I leaned into the Malvern stone façade of the wall beside me and suddenly experienced a profound and physical sense of what two elements of that phrase meant to me –even if not actually in the order they were written on my chest.

    First of all I felt acutely the separation of those stones from their bedrock only a few miles away where they had developed over deep time and remained undisturbed – until humans tore them from the hills with destructive tools and probably dynamite. People far more knowledgeable than I am about Earth Mysteries posit that the history of quarrying leaves a psychic scar on the land. I thought about that and found myself apologising to those stones for their violent relocation.

    And then I realised I was on familiar territory. Here was a lesson to me in the pervasiveness of dukkha – that to build something required damage to something else, that there was an inevitability about that and that, as always, I needed to find a way of sitting with this and accepting it.

    And then I had a second experience of the Earth that those stones represented. As their coolness seeped into my shoulder and maybe a tiny part of my human warmth seeped into them, I was reminded that stones can also represent connection. In recent years it has become increasingly popular to paint stones and either gift them or leave them for people to find. One of our former temple residents is very well known for this locally!

    I have a pebble that was painted for me by a dear friend and former boss. She did one for each of her staff before she left. Though she is not herself a Buddhist she researched Buddhist art before painting a mandala on one side of the pebble for me and telling me to carry it with me to help me feel grounded when I needed it.

    Such stones can represent many images and ideas, but the underlying theme is that the givers and receivers care about each other and want to connect. And we use a small part of the Earth as our medium to do so. In doing so, we bear witness to our universal connection, or love, just as the Buddha did in reaching down and touching the Earth on the morning of his Enlightenment.

    Which brings me back, full circle, to what made me choose to sit on those steps in the middle of town on a December afternoon.

    Namo Amida Bu

    Dharma Glimpse: One Million Nembutsu

    Categories: buddhism dharma glimpse

    By Daymay Dunsby

    Since the beginning of the year I’ve been engaged in the million nembutsu practice. 2,700 a day for 365 days, recited rapidly over 25 minutes. I’ve found that it has really reignited my love for practice, just for the sake of practice. I didn’t feel lacking in my spiritual life or a particular need for stronger faith. It just felt like a nice thing to do. My memories of the practice from previous years left me with a warm and inspiring feeling that I have felt many times in my spiritual life and I now associate with devotional practices. It feels like my gesture of love for the Buddha is being reciprocated, as the nembutsu acts like a conductor between myself and Amida.

    Practice is inseparable from awakening. The act of practice is imbued with the seed of faith. To take part in spiritual practice is to embody the principles of enlightenment, as demonstrated by Shakyamuni thousands of years ago. We are still benefiting from his vision and his inspiration. But without our participation there would be nothing to enjoy, nothing to pass on. We might exist in very different worlds and lead very different lives, but when we come together we collectively manifest the things that we love. By turning up for and engaging in practice we make the heart of Buddhism beat, we breathe life into our dreams and spiritual aspirations.

    Namo Amida Bu.

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    True Faith?

    Categories: buddhism

    I’m interested in the different interpretations that arise in various contexts about the nature of faith. What is faith and how do we define it in spiritual or religious terms, and how do those definitions differ? What is the difference between religious and non-religious faith? Is it all tantamount to religion really? Sentimental or superstitious instincts or feelings pertaining to sacred universal principles? Is it possible for practitioners or ordinary people to experience spiritual fulfillment outside of dogmatic ideologies?

    I have heard some interesting and somewhat conflicting ideas about the nature of faith and the difference between it and belief. I think that there is an interesting and quite important distinction that can be made between the two.

    In my opinion, belief is a component of faith and can form part of the structure in which faith is realised, but it alone does not constitute the substance of faith.

    I often hear people referring to faith in the context of a sort of inspiration that comes from a historical or even mythical person, that maybe showed great strength of character or endured some immense suffering. I can see how individual strength can be derived through the awe inspiring stories that filter down through the ages, indeed, I often feel empowered in particular ways by the stoicism and courage that certain humans display – but my faith is something different.

    There are aspects of it that are or seem distinct from any mental constructions or projections onto any form or powerful people or compelling concepts. It feels far deeper and more pervasive than any kind of charisma or form of sentient intelligence.

    For example, there is an electricity that infuses my being when I practice Buddhism. Whether it can be explained in biological terms or whether it does actually pertain to some more profound esoteric mystery, it invigorates and sustains me, however difficult the condition I happen to be languishing in. This, for me, is closer to an accurate description of faith than the deifying of humans or influential archetypal beings can come. For me, it is the core component. The active ingredient. Everything else is essentially decoration!

    It’s possible to believe in all sorts of things, some of which may appear more rational because we can reach out and touch them, see them and hear what they have to say. There are millions of people in the US who currently hold a very firm belief in Donald Trump. They might even say that they have faith in him. But when he inevitably falls from grace, disappears from the public eye or dies, will their belief still sustain their hopes and dreams? Or will they be swayed and persuaded by the next man in a suit who claims to have the answers to all of their problems and fears?

    When I hear about faith in the more fashionable sense – ie, popstars and politicians posturing in ways that make them appear more powerful – it often feels like a sort of misappropriation, like greed or self centred determination or some other pernicious force being mistaken for faith. Or, the idea of faith being used or weaponized in the pursuit of material gain.

    However, this could easily be part of my own prejudicial complex, rejecting the notion that worldly power is or can be compatible with true faith. Maybe it is more subjective than I believe or than my own experience allows me to see, but I believe faith to be the manifestation of a spiritual energy, that exists regardless of any personal strength or ideas/beliefs about mystical deities or religious figures. That’s not to say that these figures are not important, just that it seems important to remember that it is not the person or being that controls or produces spiritual power, they are merely the vehicle of transmission.

    I think what we largely don’t realise or tend to acknowledge, is the way that religion and faith show up in our day to day lives.

    One of the more interesting definitions of religion is the term Organized Spirituality. When we think about the implications of this we can extend it to almost every aspect of human life. Spirit inextricably permeates the material world and is therefore inherent in every activity that we can possibly imagine or undertake. The spirit of family, friendship, creativity and so on, all express some of the principles that describe religion. Even the evil that we see and hear of in the world is perpetrated in the spirit of some nefarious belief system or other, whether wrong or not, the intention is underpinned by a spirit of some form, desire, anger, etc.

    All of these examples can be squared with the concept of seeking higher truths or levels of reality and consciousness. And, by this premise, it is not too much of a stretch to associate these every day human activities as fitting the definition of Organised Spirituality. So, in a certain sense, it is all religion.

    Having said all of that, the things that we put our trust and faith in do tend to be the kind of things that are inevitably destined to let us down in one way or another. In a materially conditioned world, there can be no eternal bonds; everything is subject to the ravages of time. Whereas the spiritual realm is unconditioned, not subject to age or decay.

    I think that it is possible to be distracted from the heart of the matter – which should surely be the improvement of the state of the world – and seduced by the idea that the human mind is capable of thinking itself out of hell. We look to the potential of ourselves and others as distinct from the infinite wisdom and guidance that preceded us through millennia, and allow our prejudices and resentments to close the door to the wonders of the kind of traditional religious faith that we collectively feel has failed us.

    There does seem to be a certain amount of bitterness in the kind of logic that separates the human race from the power of traditional religion. It is possibly the same bitterness that causes the divisions that are endlessly and increasingly apparent in our societal dynamics. I believe traditional religions to hold the cohesive power that has the potential to dissolve the boundaries that keep us in conflict with ourselves and each other. If we can break the habits of self, that keep us struggling to maintain and justify an unsustainable way of being in and relating to the world and everything in it.

    It is interesting to see that the dry cynicism of the scientific fraternity has begrudgingly given way to a more religious way of thinking. Quantum mechanics has been instrumental in the beginnings of the dismantling of our super-materialist ways of interpreting the universe. It shows us that separation is merely a perspective, inherent to our subjective experiences. When we try to intuit the foundations of material phenomena, we find ourselves thrust into a much deeper mystery. This could be a great example of the apparent paradox which shows us that, the harder we try to turn away from the divine, the closer we come to it!

    Namo Amida Bu.

    Dayamay

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    The Importance of Practice

    Categories: buddhism

    By Kaspa

    I thought of a really good analogy for practice, with human beings being represented by solar systems and the planets being our bad habits and the sun being our self-concern. I started writing it out and it all sounded so complicated! Maybe I’ll try and present it another time. Today I’ll share a more personal account of practice.

    Around fifteen years ago on a Buddhist retreat, in a shared mediation exercise, I looked deep inside my heart and noticed a black hole. I had a deep intuitive sense that this image was showing me both my depression, and hinting at the sense of worthlessness at the bottom of that hole that the depression was feeding off and responding to.

    Since then I have practiced a lot of meditation and nembutsu.

    Japanese characters reading Namo Amida Butsu, hand written by Honen
    Honen’s calligraphy of nembutsu

    In mediation I sit and aim to pay attention to the present moment. Meditation often gives me a break from my mind going around in circles. Sometimes in that break a completely new thought will appear, or a mental knot I’ve been worrying will unravel. Sometimes it is just a relief to sit quietly for a while. I trust that not feeding the various thoughts and impulses that appear is good for future me as well — if I’m not putting energy into them now they are less likely to appear again. And sometimes in the silence something more profound happens: I experience a sense of interconnection to the whole world, or a deep sense of love for the other people in the room practicing with me, or I catch a glimpse of the pool of love and wisdom that lies deep within each of us.

    Nembutsu is an act of trust. In reciting the Buddha’s name I am reminding myself that my small-mind is not the only or most important way of understanding the world. I am reminding myself that Buddhas exist — that somehow love is present in the universe and that love is always ready to meet me. I am reminding myself that we are all loveable just as we are, even if I can’t manage it for myself or others, and that love is transformative and healing.

    When I look inside my heart now, and bring that image of the black hole to mind, I notice that it is much smaller: maybe an 1/8th of the size it was on that retreat many years ago. Sitting with that image I realise that it is true my depression is much less smaller these days, and I can tell there is much less worthlessness sitting at the bottom of the well.

    I’m not very good at maintaining a regular formal practice, but I am convinced of its value. Hopefully something I’ve said here today will inspire you to practice, or to keep practicing.

    Videos!

    Categories: activism buddhism videos

    Three videos of Kaspa talking about environmental activism.

    Getting Arrested for Touching The Earth – a talk at Buddhafield Festival, Kaspa tells the story of his arrest for demonstrating with XR, about intuitive compassion and finding an appropriate response to the climate crisis.

    Two XR Buddhist Co-coordinators in Conversation Kaspa and Katja talk about activism at the Triratna Earth Sangha Confernce:

    And finally, with Katja again, in conversation with David Loy

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